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COVID-19 & CancerPatient Stories

Deadly Kicks from the “C” Word

Sabrina Steinback’s mom died from COVID-19 in 2020, and then Sabrina had a lumpectomy to remove breast cancer at the end of the year.
April 2021 Vol 7 No 2
Sabrina Steinback
Buckley, Washington

The year 2020 has been the most challenging period I can recall. My mother died in 2020 from COVID-19. It was one of the most devastating events so far in my life. She was diagnosed with COVID-19 in mid-June 2020. She fought hard for 4.5 weeks, struggling to breathe. I wasn’t allowed to visit her or to hold her hand while she lay in the ICU at the Swedish Hospital in Seattle, Washington.

Visiting via Zoom

My best option was to talk to her doctors to get updates on her condition a couple of times a day, and to visit her via Zoom. She was completely intubated and heavily sedated. I watched her body move up and down, as the life support machine was breathing each breath into her lungs. It was so hard to watch, but that was my only option to have any communication with her.

The doctors tried every drug and medical treatment available for COVID-19 victims. With each drug injected into her body, I became more hopeful that she would start to improve. I had been reading and researching online articles, and following the news reports about the various treatments.

Alas, none of these therapies had much impact on her ability to breathe more than 70% of oxygen. Nearing the last week of her life, her lungs became brittle, and the amount of oxygen she was producing on her own was half of what it had been before. It all came to an end on July 31, 2020, as she took her last breath, and quietly passed away, alone.

My Own Health Issues

During that time when I had feelings of helplessness and sadness, I was also dealing with my own health issues. At the beginning of the year, I had completed my yearly mammogram, and I was called back the next day for a second mammogram. The doctor recommended that I have a follow-up biopsy because of a troubling area related to breast density seen on the mammogram.

The follow-up biopsy showed that I had precancerous cells. Within a few weeks after receiving these results, I was told that because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I would not be seen in the clinic until August. The clinics were not allowed to treat my condition, because of the first surge of the coronavirus.

Coronavirus and Cancer

I waited until August, and then had a follow-up MRI, to determine if the precancerous cells had any changes. A few days after that appointment, I received a call back, saying that an invasive malignant tumor was found on the same breast, but in a different location.

At the end of October 2020, I had a lumpectomy to remove the breast cancer, as well as a sentinel node biopsy in my underarm area, and surgical excision of the precancerous cells.

If 2 painful kicks from the “C” word—coronavirus and cancer—are not enough to want to isolate in a hole, the “F” word basically sums up how I was feeling.

Looking for a Fresh Start

Reflecting on 2020, I have had to change course from being fully employed to being diagnosed with cancer. I watched my mother die alone in the ICU from COVID-19, and then I was diagnosed with an invasive cancer. Along the way, the medical bills just keep coming.

Overall, 2020 has been very trying. Nevertheless, I am blessed that I have a roof over my head, and a wonderful friend who carried me through my cancer treatment. These are a few things I am grateful for.

Before 2020 was finally over, I still had 4 weeks of radiation and reconstruction surgery as part of my treatment plan. If I could have one request from the universe or from God, it would be to let 2021 be a fresh start to good health, happiness, and hope.

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Last modified: April 26, 2021

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